There is no denying that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the way forward. AI has proved to be useful in our day to day lives, be it for any purpose, ranging from medical science to calculating bills and even promoting communication, it has indeed penetrated through all the levels. But is the rapid spread of AI really in our best interest?
At the recently concluded Pune International Literary Festival, a talk, organised in association with the Salzburg Global Seminar — a non-profit organisation that hosts programmes on global topics as diverse as healthcare, education, culture, economics, geo-politics, LGBT issues, social justice and sustainability, discussed the challenges and benefits of AI. The panel consisted of Seda Roder, Stacy Baird and Parag Mankeekar, and was moderated by Dr Charles Ehrich.
USE AI CORRECTLY
Roder is of the opinion that ever since technology came into the picture we knew it would be used for the benefit of humankind. “It is the way forward keeping in mind the changing times. That said, when it comes to big data it is actually the small thing — the human factor — that really matters,” she said.
She believes that the reason humans are a higher species is that they possess the feeling of empathy. A machine, no matter how advanced, can never have that quality.
“But the thought that an advanced machine, which is actually built by humans, will take over the human race and the world has created a fear among people everywhere. They think AI will replace humans as a workforce, leaving a void in an individual’s needs,” she said. But Roder pointed out that humans can use AI correctly so that it reaches every community of the world that desperately needs help. We should be able to trust the ever growing technology. “We need to use data in a way that can set the world in the right direction and help the human race advance in various walks of life,” she added.
However, when it comes to big data that can actually be used to tackle situations it all comes down to leadership. Citing an example Baird says that big data in China is used for a social credit score. “Countries and companies in the past have been using this technology for their own needs, but what really happens is that personal data is being used against an individual. While governments using your data can manipulate you and control your access to certain facilities and rights, companies using your data can use it for generating money and guide you in a way so that you see what the company wants you to see,” explained Baird. Though data is said to be used for the benefit of citizens and consumers, there are some underlying drawbacks.
However, Baird said that these are being addressed with certain AI laws that are coming into place all over the world, so that privacy is not hampered. “Now privacy is something that people look at differently, some people want their friends and families to know what they are up to while a few others don’t. However, our privacy is at the mercy of private data companies that can sell it once we accept their terms and conditions, which we often do blindly,” Baird added. When asked who he would rather trust with his data — the government or a private company, Baird said that he would any day trust a private company. “Because they cannot manipulate my rights as a citizen but a government can, which is a rather scary thing,” he explained.
Mankeekar, a social tech entrepreneur, believes that along with making lives simpler, AI should be used to promote global empathy and social-emotional skills. “There is a lot of data that is available in the world, but what is the use of this data and technology if people are not going to benefit from it?” asked Mankeekar. Citing an example he said that trillion-dollar companies like Apple have the technology that they are selling at a rate that not many people can afford. “These companies have tried and tested resources that can be used in medical sciences, but they never really reach the people in desperate need, they are rather limited to the upper crust. Making this technology available through AI and innovation has become the need of the hour. This is why we need to put ‘humanity’ in research — not to make it highly profitable but actually help people,” he added.